State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project Id: 2010IN219B
Title: Local and Regional Assessment of Biofuel Production Facilities Impacts on Freshwater Quality in Indiana
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2010
End Date: 2/28/2011
Congressional District: 4
Focus Categories: Models, Water Quality, Water Quantity
Keywords: water quality, remote sensing, sediment transport, Wabash River
Principal Investigators: Rao, Suresh
Federal Funds: $ 10,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 31,623
Abstract: The annual bioethanol production capacity in the US has increased rapidly, reaching 55 billion liters as of January 2009, with Indiana being among the leading states contributing to this trend. However, several studies have warned that the corn-ethanol production increases may further compromise water quality and compete for freshwater allocations with other sectors (e.g., urban, municipal, industrial). Although several studies have examined water requirements for biomass production, most of those are focused either on global/national scale or solely biomass cultivation stage. Therefore, this study aims to investigate local- and regional-scale impacts of freshwater use and wastewater discharges, especially from biofuel conversion processes in Indiana by examining recent trends, and projecting future scenarios. Blue water availability, which is diverted from precipitation to form surface water, will be estimated at the watershed scale (TELM, Threshold Exceedance Lagrangian Model) and at the basin level (Budyko model) along with an examination of the factors which impact the water availability. Water Poverty Index will be also used to identify the areas of the greatest water scarcity in Indiana, thereby enabling prioritization of biofuel production facility expansion options. In addition, the impacts of biofuel production on water quality, including fertilizer and pesticide runoff from biomass farming stage and wastewater discharge from a biofuel conversion process, will be investigated (e.g., nutrient and contaminant loads). Contaminant profiles of wastewater from the different biomass conversion processes will be identified and then the spatial scales over which water-quality impairments are to be expected will be estimated. Combined with decreased freshwater availability, degraded surface water quality will further reduce the availability of water for biofuel production and other uses. Local and state governments and water management authorities need decision tools in making choices for allocation among various competing freshwater users, as a component of sustainable water resources management.

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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